Our commy tour guide was getting sick of us. We were scattered, uninterested in his speeches and hungry. I sat in the front seat of the tour bus and just smiled at Tony our Bus driver. He was so sweet and told me that he did not like the city, he lives outside the city in the country. If you are wondering, Cubans don’t speak the best English. During days of the cold war, they taught Russian in schools, now it is French and German or Italian. So when I say I am speaking to people, it is in a terrible broken Spanish that I learned living in Miami. Still somehow I get by. You can read so much by someone if you just listen to the tone and watch them. Even if you can’t understand anything, and in the end? You can laugh, put your hand on their shoulder and just say “Desculpe – pero – No ENTIENDO….”
I tell Tony the driver thank you and I wish him good luck. As we step out of the bus and start heading into the interior of the old city it gets extremely hot. Our first stop is the a main square just recently renovated with the help of UNESCO. Our tour guide is very proud. I count the buildings and wonder if they can multiply this by 10,000 to even get this city back into shape. You can see here that the crane is renovating yet another building that they could only salvage the facade for. Many of the building are rotting from the inside out and I suspect this is how a ton of these buildings will be dealt with.
Still somehow you then realize, well there is a crane – a crane operator and workers? So that must be good for the people of Cuba. Wages however are regulated. I don’t know if these guys get the same as a baker or not. I never found out. Walking through we get caught in a rain storm. There is nothing better than a tropical rain to cool you down on a hot day. We take cover in an art gallery that has the most beautiful courtyard and we are hung up there for about 45 minutes. It is here that I am able to buy post cards and by a commi newspaper to see what they are talking about. The Pope just visited so the headline was “The POPE SHUNS THE US FOR THE EMBARGO”. The other headlines are “CUBA HELPS LIVESTOCK FARMERS PRESERVE LAND.” Another is “DOCTORS SENT TO ABU DABI TO PERFORM SURGERIES!” What I notice about the papers is that there are very few ads. I also notice that they are very anti american. “America stops this! America stops that! Finally there is an article that Cuba is starting a 120 year old club. That Cubans are so healthy that they should all live to 120 years! I second think the socialized medical and wonder – maybe it is that good? The tour group cruised around and braved the rain by the end. We were really hungry and wanted to get to lunch so we started walking toward the Palador. The magic of the rain on the streets and the cool air and the sounds of the city were beautiful. Here are a few things we saw along the way to lunch.
Don’t get me wrong on some things that I am writing or even some things I am leaving out! Cuba is confusing. driving around in private homes along the way you saw people with tiny stands in their driveways. Selling fruit or bags or something. This was ILLEGAL until recently and people are excited to start small businesses. You have to remember, you can’t open the flood gates of Capitalism in a country that does not even pay taxes or rent!!!! Think about it. I mean, if you can figure out a way to make a little extra, you don’t need much! Education if free too? If you get the good grades – then you get the education. Cuba actually exports engineers and doctors. Can you imagine exporting Brain power in a country that barely had toilet paper? It is extremely complicated here. As the Onion peels and my eyes burn, it actually gets more confusing. Just before lunch our tour guide brought us through a small flea market where you could purchase books and old magazines and pins. It was here we met our little band that serenaded us. When they were through, we mentioned to them that we had extra guitar strings. Cubans love to play music but barely have enough money to buy supplies. The guitarist here was playing on Nylon string and wire! Lisa’s husband packed her guitar strings and when we told them about it strings they offered to go pick them up! We told them where the hotel was and they said they would come a little later to get them.
At this point we get really hungry, leave the band and start running to the Palador. On our way – more sites to see and more people to meet. Beautiful walk through the rainy streets of Havana. We are now ready for lunch.